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Performance Lab’s CEO Waynne Dartnall repeated the point so many times it began to sound like a mantra: All the step counts, feet climbed, distance run, and calories burned data we’re collecting with our fitness wearables is just a bunch of numbers that don’t mean much. What we need is a system that translates the numbers into real, actionable insights in real time.

He’s right. There’s no shortage of apps and devices that generate numeric data but stop there. We need technology that interprets it all, but, so far, the attempts we’ve seen to do that have been clunky.

New Zealand-based Performance Labs unveiled its answer to the problem today — a personal coaching software for wearable devices.

The software, which will be built into wearable fitness devices and apps, is called the ARDA Coaching engine. Dartnall showed a video of a person running while listening to the ARDA Coach in his headphones. The calm female voice was saying things like “Jon, you’re running down these stairs too fast” and “Let’s try to take this hill a little faster this week,” and “Your legs are a bit tired. I suggest an easier workout next time to recover.”


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The coach takes in biometrics and environmental data from whatever sensors the wearable device makes available and uses the data to design personalized workouts and give training advice in real time. More specifically, the software can use data about terrain, weather, speed, power, recent performance, sleep, and measures of central nervous system fatigue to inform the various algorithms that create the coaching advice

The demo video is impressive. We’ll wait and see how it works in the wild with real user data. But Intel Capital, the global investment arm of the multinational chip manufacturer, made a substantial investment (the exact amount wasn’t revealed) in Performance Labs, leading us to believe that the ARDA Coaching software at least has a lot of potential. The deal underscored Intel’s increased focus on wearable technologies and Internet of things.

“The ARDA Coaching Engine will help our partners bring to market a new generation of wearable fitness devices that will function as a virtual coach,” Dartnall said. “We expect a personal trainer who we trust to assess what we are doing, how we are doing, and in what context we are doing it to provide the best advice as to what we should do next.”

Performance Lab says it is currently working with several partners on a variety of devices that will use the coaching software. The software, Dartnall said, can operate as a cloud-based service, or be housed on a partner’s device or chipset. It can be baked into a range of devices, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, smartphones, and eyewear.

According to an IDC report, consumers and businesses will buy nearly 112 million wearable computer devices by 2018, a 78.4 percent growth from 2014’s predicted sales of about 19 million units.

Performance Lab was founded in 1993.

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